DIRECTOR: Eric Walter
STARRING: Daniel Lutz, Laura DiDio, Neme Alperstein
FORMAT: DVD Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
RUNNING TIME: 85minsÂ Â Â Â Â
CERTIFICATE: 15 mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
When did I stop believing in the supernatural? God knows. Naturally, as weâ€™re no longer on speaking terms either heâ€™s not telling.
I spent most of my young life believing in something. Devout Christian, then New Age convert, reading Tarot cards for a living and luxuriating in the company of mediums and psychics.
At some point in my late twenties â€” perhaps, not entirely coincidentally, around the time I started writing about such things as fiction â€” I became a rationalist and skeptic. There was no single event that changed my way of thinking, it was more a natural progression. I believe we all settle into these things, shuffling our philosophies until we find the one that fits. The world view that best makes sense of the world in which we live. The one that makes us comfortable.
Daniel Lutz is not comfortable.
One of the three children dragged into infamy by the book (and endless movie adaptations) The Amityville Horror, this documentary allows him to take centre stage, talking for the first time about his experiences in the allegedly haunted house.
The Amityville Horror (a phrase trademarked by Danielâ€™s stepfather in 2002) is a case that never really goes away, despite so many of the details and claimed events having been questioned over the years. Indeed, a number of the people involved in the release of the original â€œtrueâ€ account as a bestselling book have gone on record admitting the whole thing was a hoax. The Lutz family never did. They insisted that, while exaggerated, the essential details of the terrible few weeks they spent in the building were true.
Daniel Lutz clings to this view and perhaps that is where the real horror lies.
I donâ€™t want to get into the nitty gritty of the case, this is a review not an essay, but there is no doubt that Daniel Lutz is a very mixed-up, bitter and angry man. Naturally, given my skeptical credentials, I am likely to err on the side of disbelief. I donâ€™t believe the house was haunted. I donâ€™t believe the experiences he claims to have had within its four walls are quite what he claims them to be. Thatâ€™s my extremely subjective opinion.
Thatâ€™s not to say I think heâ€™s a liar. I donâ€™t know what he is. I suspect he doesnâ€™t either. He strikes me as someone who has mythologised his early life â€” perhaps, as suggested here, in an attempt to address the difficulties of living with his stepfather, a man who doesnâ€™t come out of this documentary very well â€” and heâ€™s no longer quite sure whatâ€™s true or not. Certainly some of his stories contradict themselves, though all are recounted with such conviction, such frustration and anger, that its hard to view them as conscious fabrications.
For the first hour or so, Walterâ€™s documentary seems to err on the side of the supernatural. The presentation and discussion is extremely biased towards those who are convinced the building is haunted. This is something of an error, not simply because it goes against my skepticism but because balance is important in any documentary. The last half an hour redresses this somewhat, as we seem to veer towards the assumption that its subject is a tortured and confused man rather than a genuine witness to the supernatural.
As a piece of documentary filmmaking itâ€™s uneven and patchy. As an opportunity to hear a man discuss his personal slant on one of the most famous modern supernatural cases, itâ€™s a worthwhile watch. Anyone with an interest in the subject (and that should include any fan of horror fiction) itâ€™s a documentary thatâ€™s well worth hunting down, if only because it asks more questions than it answers, something that canâ€™t fail to intrigue.